By Max Clark

Provisional figures from the Met Office issued today reveal that December 2010 has become the coldest December across the UK since the national series began in 1910.

The mean temperature for the UK has been minus 1.0 °C, well below the long term average of 4.2 °C; while the previous coldest December in the record was 0.1 °C, in 1981.

The provisional UK, England and Wales December 2010 figures show that the month was the coldest month since February 1986. In Scotland it was the coldest month since February 1947 and in Northern Ireland, the coldest month on record.

Airports across the country were shut and infrastructure paralysed as the cold snap cost the economy up to £1 billion a day.
SMEs were particularly hard hit as deliveries in the crucial run up to Christmas were rendered impossible by the arctic conditions.

December 2010 has seen some exceptionally cold and snowy weather across much of the country, with temperatures quite regularly falling to between -10 and -20 °C overnight, and many places seeing temperatures struggling to get above freezing by day. Over the last 50 winters, there have been eight comparable spells of weather.

Although it has been very cold and snowy it has also been relatively sunny and dry.

Precipitation (rain and snow) was well below average for the UK, recording just 38% of what is normally expected in December. This makes it the 3rd driest December in the series that goes back to 1910.

Sunshine hours were some 39% above normal, with an average of 53 hours recorded for the UK, making it the 3rd sunniest in the series that goes back to 1929. Provisionally it was the sunniest December on record across Northern Ireland.

For the complete year the UK recorded a provisional mean temperature of 8.0 °C, making it the 12th coldest year in the series back to 1910. Sunshine and rainfall figures for 2010 are provisionally the 9th sunniest and the 10th driest in the respective series.